Friday, June 6, 2014

Three Ways Cross-Training Improves your Workforce


Michigan’s manufacturers are always looking for ways to strengthen their workforce. In today’s competitive environment, your staff is your company’s most valuable asset. Cross-training is an excellent way to cultivate a versatile workforce that maximizes efficiencies and productivity.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, cross-training involves taking an employee with a specific function within your organization, and training him or her in a different role. The goal is to develop this employee’s skills in other areas or departments so that he or she is more well-rounded and adaptable. By cross-training employees across different departments, you create a more flexible workforce.

Example: Kimberly works in your company’s marketing department and she’s great at her position. Long-term, you would like her to remain in marketing. However, you bring her on the shop floor every Thursday at 2:00pm. During this time, Gary, who operates numerous machines on the floor, trains Kimberly to use a special injection tool. Over time, Kimberly develops the skills required to operate the machine independently. She remains a member of the marketing department, and Gary remains in charge of operating the machines. However, Kimberly now has the expertise to also use the tool.

Likewise, you may take Jonathan from the shipping department and bring him into the marketing department on Thursdays to learn some specific marketing tasks such as sending company e-blasts through the organization’s e-mail marketing software.

Here are three key reasons why this can benefit your organization:

Keep Production Flowing During Absences, Vacations and Spikes in Business

Employees get sick, go on vacation or take breaks. An employee may need to stop… but your productivity can’t. In the event that an employee is gone, you now have a back-up employee(s) who can fulfill critical tasks. Using the example above, if Gary gets the flu and is out for the week, Kimberly may be able to fill in for him at certain parts of the week and use the special injection tool.

This is also helpful during unexpected spikes in business. Let’s say the marketing department was unexpectedly hit with extra projects this month. They have to plan two extra major events and rollout a new campaign. If the work is overflowing, they can bring in Jonathan, who is now  trained in the e-mail marketing system, to manage sending company e-blasts.

Here is a real-lifemanufacturing example from a website for entrepreneurs called www.gaebler.com:

“There was only one employee (out of 30) who had the training to run a particular machine. When the employee was not in the correct spot, the entire line shut down waiting for the one trained employee to return. Had other employees been trained in this area, there would not have been a line stoppage and 29 people could have remained working.”

Build a Stronger Sense of Team Appreciation

When someone works hard at his or her job, there is a natural desire to be recognized. Consequently, when people make mistakes or fall short at tasks, they also want people to understand the difficulties and challenges of their position. Cross-training enables workers to experience somebody else’s job, for better or worse. Through this experience, workers are able to build a sense of appreciation for the work of other employees. This understanding can help create a better environment of teamwork and camaraderie.

Circling back to our fictional example above, even if Kimberly and Jonathan are never called upon to assist the company with their newfound skills, this new perspective can also enhance their own job performance. Now that Kimberly has an appreciation for the care that Gary uses in operating machines, particularly the special injection tool, she can utilize that knowledge when writing marketing materials and creating campaigns. Jonathan has a better understanding of efforts that go into each campaign and can take pride when product shipments increase, knowing those marketing efforts are being rewarded.

Add New Perspectives into the Mix

Workers develop their own natural routine with getting the work done. But what if their routine isn’t the most efficient way to go? By training someone new and adding them into the mix, they may offer a fresh perspective and identify a more effective way to accomplish goals. Similarly, they may have had a similar issue in their own department and can offer insight as to how to address problems.

Cross-training provides an excellent opportunity to develop the skills of your workforce and recognize numerous additional benefits. Identify key players in your company that you believe can handle new functions and ultimately experience the perks!

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MMTC offers a variety of services including projects that will improve your workforce. For more information, click here to see a list of MMTC’s solutions or contact us at 888-414-6682 or inquiry@mmtc.org

Since 1991, MMTC has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses compete and grow. Through personalized services fitted to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.mmtc.org.

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